Campagnolo Neutron Ultra clincher

Campagnolo Neutron Ultra Wheelset 300x225 Campagnolo Neutron Ultra clincher

Campagnolo Neutron Ultra Wheelset

Most bike riders who are thinking about upgrades are thinking about racing. Sooner or later, if cycling gets into your soul, you’ll want to race. Ask any of your fellow riders – the first place to put your upgrade dollars will be your wheels. Manufacturers are pretty savvy about the upgrade market, and most major brands offer a large range to fit most budgets, but the mid range race quality wheelsets is one of the most competitive categories. In this range we are looking at knowledgeable riders looking for a lot of performance for around one thousand dollars, and keeping a combined wheel and tire price below that mark gets tough when these riders are ready to race but want a ride that looks and feels like a pro’s. Campagnolo is playing hardball in this market with the Neutron Ultra, so if you are looking to put down some hard earned cash on your first set of really good race wheels, let’s see if these are for you.

They need to be light, right?

Three things make race wheels – weight, stiffness, and aerodynamics. In a road race environment, the first two matter most. You want your wheels light, so you can climb nimbly, but you want them stiff, so you can chase the breakaway or sprint for the finish line without losing an ounce of power. Let’s talk weight first. With a combined weight of only 1470 grams, the Neutron Ultra is going to blow a lot of rivals out of the water. They benefit from a little risk taking by Campy, where they grind out the rims between the spokes to lighten up the wheels. This allows a little bit of flex, so to make sure you don’t lose your watts, the rear wheel has asymmetrical spoke drilling to compensate for drive train strain. On the plus side, while the front wheel may show a little ‘give’ under pressure or a heavier rider, it does offer a little more shock absorption – much appreciated on high mileage races.

The rest of the wheel gets the Campagnolo treatment too. The Neutron Ultras have a super smooth aluminum oversize hub, so no hops or clunks with these wheels, and descents and freewheeling are smooth as silk. It’s a bit early to tell with the 2013 models, but previous years have a solid reputation for reliability. If you move on to even better wheels for racing one day, these will have an afterlife for many years in training rides.

Why spend more?

The Neutron Ultra raises the question of why riders would spend thousands on higher-end wheelsets if these are so good? Well, if you are shopping for a top class wheelset for racing, bear in mind the limitations of the Neutron Ultra. This wheelset is designed for long, tough road races. It’s not the most aerodynamic of Campagnolo wheels, which is fine in the usual road race environment of a group, a cross wind, and up hills. If you are looking for triathlon wheels, you would do well to invest in a deeper rim wheelset. Likewise, if the criterium is your thing, or if you plan to win races on the power of your sprint, you might appreciate a stiffer front wheel than the Neutron Ultra, although most road racers will find the Neutron Ultras responsive enough. The Neutron Ultra are a climber’s dream, so if your race is won on the hills, these are the wheels for you.

 

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